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Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson has had two high-profile opportunities to run the 40-yard dash, a test you’d figure he’d do very well at, and he declined both times.
Jackson had his pro day workout on Thursday at Louisville, and one of the main stories from it was that he did not run the 40. Jackson didn’t run the 40 at the scouting combine either. It’s an interesting decision. It would seem like Jackson would want to show off his speed. He’s incredibly athletic, and putting up a great 40 time couldn’t hurt him.
But it seemed like a bit of a message to NFL teams. He wants to be seen as a quarterback, period.
You can’t blame him, if that’s the case. Since the end of Louisville’s season he has had to answer a lot of questions about the ludicrous notion he should switch to receiver. At the combine he took a hard stance, saying he was a quarterback. He said he didn’t want to go to a team that didn’t project him as a quarterback. He shouldn’t even have to say that, considering he won a 2016 Heisman Trophy at quarterback and was prolific as a passer in college, but he has to fight a lot of stereotypes as a quarterback who is phenomenal at running as well.
Viewed in that lens, it makes sense Jackson wouldn’t run the 40. He’s forcing NFL teams to focus on one thing about him in the pre-draft process, and that’s his passing ability. And, as Jackson told NFL Network after his workout when asked about his decision to not run the 40, it’s pretty clear on tape that he has great speed.
“I feel, game speed is going to tell it all,” said Jackson, who rushed for 4,132 yards in three college seasons. “You’ve got to catch me first. I’ve proved that.”
Jackson seemed to throw it well at his pro day. He showed a nice touch on deep balls. He doesn’t have a huge arm, but he can make big-time throws.
“I think Lamar Jackson has been pretty solid, with what they’ve asked him to do,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said during the telecast of Jackson’s pro day.
Jackson also had a focus on proving during his 59 pro day throws that he could transition to being under center. He was primarily out of the shotgun in college, as many college quarterbacks are in this era, but during his pro day workout he had a center snapping to him.
“I came to prove to the guys I can throw any pass from under center, instead of going to the gun,” Jackson said.
Jackson is perhaps the most interesting case in the draft. He’s one of the most productive quarterbacks in college history, yet the consensus is that he’s behind the top four quarterbacks in this draft class. He’s such an interesting prospect that it wouldn’t be too surprising if someone took a chance on him in the first round. But he’s clearly not guaranteed to be a first-round pick, because of questions about his accuracy and his ability to transition to the pro game.
Jackson said he believes he can start from day one (“Absolutely,” he told NFL Network) and is ready to show that he can adapt to whatever he’s asked to do.
“I can learn any system,” Jackson said. “Whatever you teach me I’m going to learn, and I’m going show them.”
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